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Developer and Publisher: Uncanny Games (Valenciennes, France)
If you seek a serene, relaxed and offbeat two-dimensional platformer, then look no further than OIO. This game emphasizes exploration and puzzle-solving rather than combat. Instead of having a story specified at the beginning, you discover the plot—involving finding out what happened to the area’s other inhabitants—as you proceed. You control a wooden character (whose head is shaped like the word “oio”), and you collect pickups and modify the environment in various imaginative ways to proceed. You’re able to do amazing things with wooden beams while climbing, jumping, triggering switches and overcoming obstacles. Puzzles are set at just the right level of difficulty, and there are special achievements that motivate you to do your best. The beautiful, sumptuous widescreen environment is full of odd formations and contraptions that can facilitate or impede your progress. You control the action with a gamepad or the mouse and keyboard.
Developer and Publisher: Charlie’s Games (Diss, United Kingdom)
If you like abstract arcade space shooters such as Geometry Wars, then you’ll love Scoregasm. Although there have been tons of games of this type through the years, this one—despite its strange name—refines the best play elements. The Earth is under attack, and you alone can save the planet from destruction. Scorgasm’s special branching path system allows you to select a level of challenge for each successive scenario. Its psychedelic widescreen geometric graphics, booming sound effects (including a great synthesized announcer), and pulse-pounding soundtrack are absolutely mesmerizing. Your ability to create a mega-explosion and destroy all nearby foes is a real blast. When you encounter a boss, you have a big fight on your hands, so your hand-eye coordination had better be in gear. The game is DRM-free and supports gamepad (with enhanced support for the Xbox 360 controller) and mouse-keyboard input.
Midnight Mansion HD
Developer and Publisher: ActionSoft (Burbank, Cal., USA)
Retro remakes are rarely noteworthy enough to merit inclusion in an awards article, but this adventure-platform release is a real exception. Playing the role of the intrepid Jack Malone, you search for treasure in 11 scary mansions filled with obstacles and opportunities. While hunting for loot, there are lots of pickups—including keys, shields, lanterns, backpacks and maps—to be discovered. Clever use of switches, ladders and slide poles is essential for success. The gameplay is family-friendly—you can choose to have no blood appear—and is less about killing foes than avoiding them. The ominous music, cute visuals (especially the great monsters), and fun/creepy sound effects really enhance the gameplay. You can play using intuitive gamepad or keyboard controls with a widescreen view of the action, and after you’ve finished the game you can even explore custom mansions created by other players.
Agency of Anomalies: Mystic Hospital Collector’s Edition
Developer: Orneon (Vinnitsa, Ukraine)
Publisher: Big Fish Games (Seattle, Wash., USA)
Ever dream of being trapped in a lunatic asylum? Then this hidden-object puzzle adventure is for you. You play the role of a special paranormal agent who investigates a military hospital where efforts to create super-soldiers have gone terribly wrong. Horrendous experiments on humans have transformed soldiers, doctors and nurses into grotesque monstrosities. Your goal is to save the world from a dimensional vortex triggered by this experimental activity. Among the many outstanding features of this game is its truly unnerving atmosphere, conveyed through disturbing visuals and wonderful background harpsichord music. You control everything with the mouse, and can earn special achievements as you proceed. The Collector’s Edition adds a comprehensive strategy guide, fun mini-games (which you can replay after you finish), and a quite lengthy bonus adventure in a new setting.
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